Thursday, November 26, 2015
By Daniel Skye
Brian Howell thought he was having a heart attack.
Shooting pains ran up and down both arms. It had started as a slight tingle in his fingertips and the palms of his hands. Then the sensation traveled up to his wrists, his forearms, his biceps, his shoulders, and back down to his hands.
That tingling sensation quickly turned to sharp, debilitating pain. Soon, the discomfort spread throughout his body and his extremities throbbed and burned. Every muscle ached. It was the worst case of cramps he’d ever experienced. His knees buckled and he dropped down, doubled over in pain.
Ever since the accident, Brian had been prone to cramps and muscle spasms. But it was never this excruciating, this intense. He tried his best to remain calm. If it was a heart attack, it wouldn't do him any good to freak out. And he didn't want to think about the worst possible scenario. As far as he knew, this was just an intense bout of muscle cramps. The sharp pangs could even be from pinched or damaged nerves that the doctors might have missed.
Brian had been on the road a month before. He’d swerved to avoid hitting a deer. It was dark that night and he hadn’t even seen the buck crossing the road until it was too late. He cut the wheel and his car veered off the road, sailing into a ditch.
It took Brian a moment to realize he was hanging upside down. He was stuck in that position, the blood rushing to his head. None of his bones were broken, which was a genuine miracle. But he’d been banged up something awful in the accident, and his arms and legs were killing him, not to mention his back. He tried to reach up and unclick the seatbelt, but his arms were too weak to stretch that far.
He weaved in and out of consciousness until a fellow traveler of the night saw his headlights from the ditch and phoned 911. The paramedics arrived and freed Brian from the wreckage, took him to the hospital where he was kept overnight for observation.
The doctors were amazed he was still alive. They marveled at his condition. Bumps and bruises aside, Brian was perfectly healthy. No broken bones, no permanent neck or spinal damage, not even a concussion. Brian's case was a medical anomaly. The doctors had no explanation for it. They wrote it off as luck and sent him home the next day with the bill.
It was the strangest thing though. Brian couldn’t remember much after swerving off the road. But he could’ve sworn as he was hanging upside down and rendered defenseless, something in the night had run up and attacked him. The attack was brief and he could only recall it in pieces. But the scratches on his arm were a telltale sign that there had been a struggle. However, the doctors wrote it off as cuts caused by broken windshield glass.
Brian wasn’t buying it though. Even in his semiconscious state, he had felt something in his presence. Something that was more animal than human.
He snapped back to reality when he felt his ankles pop. His knees buckled and he dropped to the floor. His arms were bent at unnatural angles. A harsh, burning sensation filled his body. For a moment, he was convinced his insides had been set ablaze. It felt as though every muscle was writhing and twisting beneath the skin.
He glanced out the window of his bedroom, and saw that the moon was full. And by then, his eyes were glowing as bright as the moon itself.
His shirt ripped in half as his body inexplicably increased in mass. His back and shoulders expanded. His legs had swelled to the size of telephone poles. His chest grew and stretched until the skin could no longer sustain. The flesh ripped down the center of his chest, revealing a vest of blood-matted fur.
A big, wet, hairy snout was forcing its way out of its mouth, peeling back the skin of his face.
Just as he reached the final stages of his transformation, a voice called out from the hallway. A voice that terrified even him.
He wasn’t sure what he was capable of doing in this state. He wondered if he’d have any self-control at all.
“Daddy?” Penny, his daughter, beckoned. She was standing in the doorway, clutching her doll in one hand and rubbing her sleepy eyes with the other. “What’s going on? I heard a funny noise.”
But Brian was incapable of responding to his daughter. Not with words.
All he could do was howl. And he was howling at the top of his lungs.
Howling at the bright, piercing, sinister moon above.
Thursday, November 5, 2015
By Daniel Skye
PART TEN: THE FIFTH MAN
Friday, November 7th, 2008.
Satan appears in many unassuming forms.
Kirk Warwick got that one right.
His words echoed through Richie Carter’s head, playing like an insipid song on a continuous loop.
The case wasn’t closed yet. Not as far as Richie was concerned.
There were still two major unanswered questions.
One: Who dropped the tape in Jamie Reynolds’ bag on Halloween?
Two: Who was the fifth man involved with that tape? Somebody was holding that camera, and Richie was going to find out who.
Warwick had mumbled something about a cherry red convertible. And it struck a chord with Richie. Why did that vehicle sound so familiar? He’d seen one recently. But where? He couldn’t recall at the moment.
But he exactly knew where to start in regards to the first question.
Mackenzie Matthews worked for Fenton Meeks. She was the last one to see Fenton alive. She also had knowledge about the tape. And she was the only one left to question.
Fenton, Mac Wilson, Kirk Warwick, Dolph Hendricks, Nico and Dominic Cirico were all out of the picture. If anyone was going to have the answers, it’d be Mackenzie.
* * *
Richie found Mackenzie down at the Dorchester Pool Hall. She had just finished up her shift.
“Someone told me I’d find you down here,” Richie said. “Can I buy you a drink?”
Her eyelashes fluttered. She was used to men of all ages hitting on her, offering to buy her drinks. She knew just how to react. “Sure, why not?” she shrugged.
She was a young woman, just over twenty-one. She had sandy blonde hair and a slim, hourglass figure. Her silver, crescent shaped glowed under the fluorescent lights. That night, she was wearing a black mini dress, fishnets, and knee high boots.
“I know I look like a hooker,” she said and chuckled. “But it helps with tips.”
They sat at the bar and Richie ordered a shot and a brew for himself. Mackenzie ordered a vodka and cranberry and Richie put twenty down on the bar, told the bartender to keep the change.
“What brought you to this place?” Richie asked.
“Had to a find a new job after what happened to Fenton,” Mackenzie told him. “Joker’s Pub is closed indefinitely. I think the bank owns the lease. I’m sure they’ll find a buyer. Maybe then I can have my old job back.”
“I’m sorry all of this had to happen. But I really need to know how this all started. I need to know how that tape ended up in a little girl’s bag of Halloween candy. Do you have any theories on that?”
“Are you suggesting I had something to do with it?”
“Not at all. It sounds more like you’re suggesting it by jumping to that conclusion. I told you to be honest with me the first time around. I warned you, didn’t I? You know what’s going to happen if I tell my brother you held out on me, on him? What information do you have, Mackenzie? You worked for Fenton Meeks long enough. You must know something else.”
“Nadia Sanborn was a sweet girl,” Mackenzie sobbed. “She didn’t deserve that. I did what I had to do to see her killers brought to justice.”
“What the hell did you do, Mackenzie?”
“I knew the combination to Fenton’s safe. I had it memorized. So one night, I went into his office and swiped the tape and made a copy of my own. Then I put the tape back the next day. He never suspected a thing. I didn’t put the tape in that girl’s bag. I didn’t have the nerve to do it so my boyfriend did it for me. But I put him up to it. It was all my idea. I told him it didn’t matter who got the tape as long as it ended up in somebody’s hands. I knew any sane, rational person would take it right to the police.”
“You traumatized that poor little girl,” Richie chided. “She’s never going to be the same.”
“I never wanted that to happen,” Mackenzie said, still sobbing. “I just wanted to help, I swear.”
“Mackenzie, we know who killed Nadia. It was Mac Wilson, Kirk Warwick, Nico and Dominic Cirico. We know Fenton lent them the girl. And now we know where the tape came from. But we still don’t know who filmed it. If you know, now’s the time to tell me.”
“I don’t,” she said with conviction. “I swear. People like Mac and Nico, they didn’t have many friends. I don’t know who else could’ve been there with them. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t glad they’re all dead. And I hope you find whoever else was involved. Nadia deserved justice.”
“And justice is what she’s going to get,” Richie assured her.
* * *
Saturday, November 8th, 2008.
Richie stopped by Mitch Calloway’s office that day. Mitch was a claims manager for Vanacore Insurance and often employed Richie to sniff out phony claims. He had saved the company a fortune over the years.
Richie was looking for work, but he had an ulterior motive. Richie had called Mitch not too long ago for information on the case. And when he inquired about David Cirico, Mitch ended their call rather abruptly.
He was holding something back. Richie could see it the minute he walked into his office. He was nervous, fidgeting in his chair behind his desk.
“I’m sorry, Richie,” Mitch said. “But I really have nothing for you right now. Things have been slow. I’ll call you when I have more work for you.”
“I’m not just here about that,” Richie told him. “I want to know about David Cirico.”
Mitch bit his upper lip. His muscles tensed. “What about him?”
“I want to know where to find him.”
“Do you know who David Cirico is? Who he was?”
“I’m fully aware.”
“Then you should know he’s not a man to fuck with.”
“A girl named Nadia Sanborn was tortured, raped, and murdered. It was all caught on film. I have reason to believe Cirico might’ve been involved. And I won’t rest until I know the truth.”
“David Cirico isn’t David Cirico anymore. He goes by the name David Bennett. He owns a marina out in Fairview. Our company insures his business. And we don’t ask any questions. He keeps a low profile, runs a legitimate business now. And we don’t want any trouble from him.”
“Trust me, he won’t be giving you any trouble. Not when I’m finished with him.”
* * *
Cherry red convertible.
Warwick’s words made sense now.
Richie had seen a cherry red convertible parked beside the stationary trailer when he visited Bennett’s Marina in search of Mac Wilson. Wilson had a boat docked there. It was all coming together now.
So Richie took a drive out to Fairview that afternoon and saw the same cherry red convertible parked outside the same stationary trailer that David Cirico sold bait and tackle out of. Even if he had gone straight, even if he had left his old life behind, that didn’t change a thing. Warwick had all but confirmed his involvement with the tape.
David Cirico was the man behind the camera.
Richie entered the trailer and found Cirico behind the counter. He didn’t seem to remember Richie at all. But his expression changed when he saw the jar tucked under Richie’s arm.
“You know, that girl was beautiful,” Richie said. “She had her whole life ahead of her. She could have had a real future. But you and your sons took that away from her.”
“Do I know you?” Cirico played innocent.
“No, but you’re sure as hell going to remember me this time around.”
He placed the jar on the counter. The dragonfly danced around the top of the jar, circling the perforated lid. Jut the sight of it made Cirico’s blood run cold.
“Does the name The Outsider mean anything to you?”
“Warwick,” Cirico whispered.
“I have to know, how the hell did your sons get hooked up with a guy like that?”
“We were old friends. We knew each other since we were kids. He was a good man, but he made a lot of bad choices.”
“Look who’s talking,” Richie said, rolling his eyes.
“What do you want? Money? Name your price.”
“I don’t want your blood money. All I ever wanted from the beginning was justice. Your sons are dead. Mac Wilson is dead. Kirk Warwick is dead. Fenton Meeks is dead. That just leaves you.”
“So, what? You’re going to kill me?” Cirico laughed just at the thought. “You’re going to turn me in to the police? Do you have any idea what my people would do to you?”
“I’m not going to kill you. And I’m not going to turn you in. I’m not even a cop. I’m just a lowly private detective who has seen a lot of crazy shit these past few days. But nothing compares to what waits for you inside this jar.”
Richie unscrewed the perforated lid and the dragonfly flew out from the jar, landing on Cirico’s shoulder.
“When you bite the devil,” Richie quoted Warwick verbatim, “The devil bites back.”
He exited the trailer and waited until he heard the unmistakable screams. They were piercing, but brief. It was over in a matter of minutes.
Richie hoped now that Nadia Sanborn could finally rest in peace.
He left the marina with ambivalent emotions. He had brought Nadia’s killers to justice, but still had could not process the mystery of the dragonfly. There are certain things in this world we just weren’t meant to understand. And the dragonfly was one of them. But that didn’t stop Richie from pondering.
“Baby Blue” by Badfinger was playing on the radio and Richie turned up the volume to drown out his own thoughts. Yet the words of Warwick still echoed in the back of his mind.
Satan appears in many unassuming forms.
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
By Daniel Skye
PART NINE: DRAGONFLY
Thursday, November 6th, 2008.
Richie Carter, feeling drained and exasperated, returned to his office and made a few calls. He’d rest only when this case was settled and Nadia Sanborn could rest in peace.
He called Sal Prisco, who used to take bets for the Westfield crew. But he had little to share about Dominic Cirico and his family, and he kept his mouth shut about any business he did with the Westfield crew. He knew Richie’s brother was a cop and he wasn’t about to turn snitch.
He called Roman, his buddy down at the parking garage. Roman knew vaguely of the Cirico’s. He told Richie that their crew didn’t operate in Dorchester, but they were a New York syndicate. And he mentioned that Dominic’s father was only acting boss for a short period of time. But Roman also heard the family still had a lot of connections with the mob.
Roman knew little of the Westfield crew, and knew even less about Kirk Warwick. But Mitch Calloway, a close friend of Richie’s, informed him the Westfield crew were still very active. He warned Richie to steer clear of any remaining members.
“What about the Cirico’s?” Richie asked Mitch over the phone.
“What about them?” Mitch replied.
“Well, I’m working a case for my brother and it involves Dominic and Nico Cirico. But no one seems to know anything about the father. You have any clue about him or his whereabouts?”
“I’ll have to call you back,” Mitch said. Before Richie could respond, the line was dead.
By the time Zack Garton showed up to his office, Richie had made over a dozen calls and chain-smoked half a pack of unfiltered Lucky Strikes.
“I figured I’d find you here,” Garton said.
“And I figured this would be the first place you looked,” Richie replied. He lit another cigarette and offered one to Garton, who declined.
“You know, my dad used to own a cigar shop in the city on West 24th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenue. I used to work there on weekends and I spent a lot of my days there after school. And my parents still wonder how or why I took up smoking. As if there’s anything to wonder about, right?”
“That’s a lovely fucking story,” Garton patronized. “But if you don’t mind, Dominic Cirico nearly blew my head off this morning and I’m a little pissed off about it. I’d like to find him before he tries to flee the state. And before he gets to Kirk Warwick. I need Warwick alive, and so do you if you want to close this case.”
“What are you talking about?” Richie asked, clearly out of the loop.
“Dominic, Nico, Mac Wilson, and Warwick–they were all in on it. They tortured and killed that poor girl, filmed it, made copies, and shopped that tape around to make a quick buck off of it.”
“How do you know all this?”
“I told you I was going to pay Dominic a visit. He confessed to everything. His involvement. Sending you out to Fairview to have Mac Wilson kill you. Hiring Dolph Hendricks to kill us. Paying someone off to murder Fenton Meeks. The only thing he wouldn’t tell me is the name of man holding the camera. I had the drop on Dominic, but I never checked him for a pistol. He fired a few missed shots, and got away. And I have a feeling he’s heading straight for Warwick.”
“Then what the fuck are we waiting for? Let’s get moving.”
* * *
Richie and Zack arrived just in time to see Warwick’s farmhouse engulfed in flames. Garton stopped the car and they watched from a safe distance as the raging fire devoured Kirk Warwick’s home. The structure collapsed, and flaming debris was scattered about the land. The inferno consumed the remains of the property, reducing the farmhouse to a pile of rubble and smoldering ash.
“You think Warwick was inside?” Richie asked. “Or you think he got out in time?”
“Someone in his condition? The last time I saw him, the guy was practically on his deathbed. No way he go out unless…unless someone helped him get out. Unless someone helped him start the fire.”
“You think Dominic helped him?”
“Either that or Dominic started the fire and left him there to die.”
“Fucking hell,” Richie muttered.
“Yes, that about sums up our current situation,” Garton quipped.
“What’s our next move?”
“Next move? There is no next move, pal. We’ve reached the end of the road. It’s just you, me, and that stupid fucking dragonfly.” He motioned with his head to the backseat where the jar rested. The dragonfly fluttered around the top of the jar, circling the perforated lid. “Nico Cirico is dead. Mac Wilson is dead. Fenton Meeks is dead. Warwick is either dead or he’s on the lam. Dominic Cirico is MIA. And we can’t go after his old man. Whether or not his dad had anything to do with that little home movie is irrelevant. You can’t kill a made guy.”
“You can’t,” Richie said. “That doesn’t mean I’m powerless.”
“Richie, you don’t want to go down that road. Trust me. Besides, David Cirico keeps a very low profile. I heard he doesn’t even go by his real name anymore. We’ll never find him.”
“Wait a minute…you and I only crossed paths because we were both looking for Mac Wilson. Except we were looking for him for different reasons. I was looking to question him about the tape. And you were looking for him because you wanted the scoop on Warwick after he hired you. But who put you in touch with Warwick to begin with? I seriously fucking doubt he looked you up in the phonebook. What’d he Google you or something?”
“I never did business with Cirico’s crew, so it wasn’t David Cirico who put us in touch. But Dominic mentioned something about the Westfield crew. I’ve worked for them in the past. They must have put Warwick in touch with me after Dominic reached out on his behalf.”
“Then guess what? We’re taking a little road trip to Westfield.”
“No thanks. I’ve played with fire too many times. I’m not getting burned again.”
“Come on, man up. You know them a hell of a lot better than Warwick does. You probably even know them better than Dominic. Who are they going to side with? They could help us find them. They’re our only shot.”
“The Westfield crew are not going to hand over the son of a made guy.”
“Then we’ll show them the tape. We’ll do whatever it takes to convince them.”
“It wouldn’t change a thing. Nadia wasn’t their family. Even if we offered to grease their palms, they’d still turn us down. They may even kill us just for suggesting it.”
Stymied, Richie pounded his fists on the dashboard in frustration. “This isn’t over. Not by a long shot.”
* * *
Kirk Warwick managed to escape the blazing inferno unscathed. In fact, it was he himself who lit the match. Though, Dominic did lend him a hand. They spread enough gasoline around the house to ensure the fire would consume everything in its path and leave no trace of Warwick behind.
Warwick was alive, but not well. The cancer had taken its toll and now he was without the comfort of his home. On the run with Dominic, their first stop was Westfield, where they paid a visit to Leo Locascio.
Leo was acting boss of the Westfield crew and he felt that he owed Dominic no favors.
“Sorry, kid, but I can’t help,” Leo said. “If it was your old man asking me, maybe. But you’re not your old man.”
“I’m here on behalf of my father and everyone involved,” Dominic told him.
“I’d rather be hearing that from his own lips.”
“You know my father keeps a low profile. He’s not going to stick his neck out for anyone.”
“I’m not just anyone,” Leo assured him.
“No, you’re not,” Dominic said. “And I appreciate you taking the time to see us.”
“Drop the ass kissing routine,” Leo scoffed. “I’ve had enough of that for one lifetime. And who’s the old man? What’s his deal?”
“Kirk was there with us,” was all Dominic said. That’s all Leo needed to hear to understand.
“Look, my crew helped you with Fenton Meeks. We made sure he kept his mouth shut. But we didn’t ask for this. We didn’t bring this heat on. It was you and your brother and his pal, Mac. This is your mess to clean up, not mine.”
“I’ve comprised a list. I’ve gathered all the names, all the addresses. I have it all documented. Every tape that was sold or distributed. You just need to send in a few of your guys. Make the deaths look like accidents if you have to. As long as there’s nobody left to trace it back to us. Your guys can collect the tapes and destroy them, so it won’t ever come back to haunt us.”
“I suppose you also want us to whack that private detective, right? And your hit-man who went AWOL?”
“You put us in touch with Garton,” Dominic pointed out. “This is on you as much as it’s on me.”
“I don’t see it that way,” Leo said.
“Your crew helped distribute the tapes.”
“Before I was acting boss.”
“Either way, it all leads back to you. Garton, the tapes, Fenton Meeks. If I go down, I’m taking you with me.”
“That’s a hell of a threat.”
“It’s a promise.”
“You got some balls, kid. I’ll give you that. You’re as gutsy as your old man. But if it’s a war you want, it’s a war you get. Nobody walks all over Leo Locascio. I won’t just lie down, kid. I’ll step up.”
“I definitely don’t want to go to war with you, Mr. Locascio. But perhaps when we both go to prison, we can share a cell. Or maybe they’ll stick us side by side. They might even stick us in different cell blocks. But we’ll both be under the same roof. I can assure you of that.”
“I can see you’re not bluffing.”
“I don’t need a poker face when all my cards are out on the table.”
“Give me your fucking list and I’ll take care of the rest. As far as Garton and that private snoop go, you’ll have to do your own dirty work there.”
“Well, that’s why I need another small favor. They’re looking for us. They’ll start at Warwick’s place, but they won’t stop there. Warwick and I need a place to hide until things cool down.”
Leo sighed, exasperated. “The mannequin warehouse on Lexington Boulevard. It’s currently abandoned, but I own the lease. I use it from time to time to conduct business. It’s not The Four Seasons, but I don’t have any other accommodations.”
“We’ll take it,” Dominic said and stuck out his hand. Leo reluctantly accepted and they shook on it.
Warwick ran out of breath just walking to the door of Leo’s office. He gasped and coughed up a small handful of blood. His condition was worsening. The cancer had ravaged his throat and spread throughout his body like a baneful plague.
His time was running out. But it wasn’t death he feared. It was the dragonfly. It was everything that the dragonfly represented, what it symbolized.
It was the very definition of Hell on Earth. And Warwick desperately wanted to know the job had been completed. The fate of his soul likely depended upon its demise.
* * *
“I just want to say thanks for helping out,” Richie said. “You didn’t have to go this far with me. You did the right thing, trying to help me find Nadia’s killers. I misjudged you. I thought you were a monster.”
“Oh, I am a monster,” Garton assured him. “Lucky for you I’m a monster with principles.”
On the ride back to Richie’s office, Garton received a call. He took it out from his jacket; a cheap, prepaid phone, just like Richie’s. Burners, they call them on the street. A phone he could easily discard and purchase another to avoid having any calls traced.
The call was from a blocked number. He answered, but didn’t speak. He heard breathing on the other end of the line.
“Garton?” Leo Locascio finally spoke. “You there?”
“I’m here, Leo. What do I owe the pleasure?”
“It’s my understanding that you and a fella named Richie Carter are running around playing detectives. You’re looking for Dominic Cirico and Kirk Warwick, is that right?”
Garton didn’t say a word. He let his silence do all the talking for him.
“I know about the tape. I didn’t sanction it. None of my men were involved. We just helped with distribution. I need this matter resolved, ASAP. I’m willing to propose a trade. You and your new pal forget about our involvement in this and all my troubles go away. In exchange for that, I’ll give you Cirico and Warwick.”
“You’ve got yourself a deal. Now spill out. Where are they hiding?”
“Lexington Boulevard. There’s a warehouse adjacent to the steel mill. That’s where you’ll find them.”
* * *
Lexington Boulevard was an industrial region of Westfield, mainly consisting of factories, warehouses, and a steel mill. They parked a block from the warehouse, near the train tracks. In the rearview mirror, Garton had picked up a tail at the last minute.
Anthony Carter had grown suspicious of his brother ever since Mac Wilson’s suicide. He’d been following them for a while. He’d tailed them from Richie’s office, to the farmhouse, to Westfield.
“Anthony, get back in your car and drive away from all this,” Richie advised his brother. “Now. It’s for your own good. Trust me.”
“No can do, broski,” Anthony told him. “I want answers, pronto. You’ve been working with Zack Garton? Zack fudging Garton?!”
“I’m standing right here, you know,” Garton said.
“I’ll get to you in a minute,” Anthony said. “Right now, I’m having a conversation with my brother. What in Sam Hill is going on around here? Is your car really in the shop? And what really happened to your face? Does it have something to do with Dolph Hendricks? Did Mac Wilson even commit suicide? Tell me the truth, Richie. Now!”
“My car isn’t in the shop. It’s at Roman’s garage. Dolph Hendricks tried to kill us. A bullet grazed my cheek, that’s what happened. I was there when he died. And Wilson committed suicide. Shot himself right in front of me. I swear on that one.”
“In your brother’s defense, he didn’t kill Dolph,” Garton said.
“Yeah, because you probably did. You know what? I don’t even want to know. Dolph had a lot of enemies, and if it wasn’t you, it would’ve been someone else. I’m not concerned with him at the moment. But what else have you been holding back from me, Richie? What are you even doing out here in Westfield?”
“You want to know? Everything on that tape was real. It’s a legit snuff film. Kirk Warwick, Mac Wilson, Dominic and Nico Cirico were the four men on that tape. They did it just for kicks. They filmed it all, sold a few copies to hardcore collectors to make some extra cash. Dominic set me up, sent me out to Fairview to look for Mac Wilson so Mac could kill me. Only Mac didn’t get the job done. He hired Price to do the job and it backfired.
Dominic also paid Hendricks to come after us. And he was behind Fenton Meeks’ murder. He even sent me out to that motel to look for Wilson. He probably figured either Wilson would kill me or I’d kill Wilson and whole thing would be over with. Dominic and Warwick are holed up in that warehouse. We’re going to finish this once and for all. So are you going to stand in my way?”
“Heck no,” Anthony said. “I’m with you all the way on this one. But we do it my way. We take them in alive if possible. But if things go bad, nobody will mourn their loss. Now let’s go nail these lowdown, dirty, fart knockers.”
“We really need to work on your profanity,” Richie sighed, shaking his head.
* * *
They went in through the back. Leo Locascio had not supplied them with a key. It couldn’t look like they were in cahoots. No signs of forced entry would give Leo’s involvement away. If Dominic turned up dead and his father caught wind that Leo tipped Garton off, Leo’s days would be numbered. And the same could be said for Richie and Zack.
Garton pried the backdoor open with a crowbar he took from his trunk. But that wasn’t all he’d brought along. He’d also brought along the dragonfly.
“What’s the deal with the jar?” Anthony whispered to Richie.
“I have a feeling we’ll both find out soon enough.”
They crept through the abandoned warehouse, which was still cluttered with pallets, crates, boxes, and rows of department store mannequins.
Mannequins possessed an eerie, lifelike quality to Richie. He could feel their eyes set on him, staring, watching his every move. And he couldn’t help but stare back at them, as he was half expecting Dominic or Warwick to pop out from between them and open fire.
But the warehouse was quiet. Unnervingly quiet.
They all had their gun drawn; Richie with his Colt .45, Garton with 9mm Luger, Anthony with his service revolver. They were ready for anything.
Garton was silent as he carried the jar under one arm, but his mind anticipated the worst. He was expecting an old fashioned double cross.
Leo sold Dominic out with zero hesitation. What if this was all a setup to get Richie and Garton in that warehouse to kill them? Or maybe Leo was hoping for a shootout, blood spilled on both sides. Maybe in the end, nobody would be left to tell their side of the story.
“Sorry to disappoint you, gentlemen,” a voice stopped them dead in their tracks. A few of the mannequins toppled over as Dominic bumped through them and stepped out in front. “Leo sold me out and then he sold you out. I knew you were coming, so I brought some company of my own.”
There was a young girl in front of Dominic. He had one arm around her throat and a pistol pressed to the side of her head.
“This all happened so fast I never even had the chance to get properly introduced. What’s your name, sweetheart?” Dominic inquired.
“Rh-Rhonda,” the girl said, her eyes wide with terror, tears streaming down her face.
The girl was a teenager, probably still in high school. The boys all knew the hand Dominic was playing. Rhonda was just another innocent pawn in a sick, demented game. Having a hostage gave Dominic leverage. They couldn’t risk taking a shot at him as long as Rhonda was still alive and in his grasp.
“Well, Rhonda,” Dominic said. “Today is not your day. You see, these gentlemen here want to take me away to prison again, or worse, they’ve come to kill me. Personally, I’m not a fan of either scenario. So I don’t want to kill you, but if it’s you or me, I’m afraid it has to be you. So keep those tears coming. Convince them that your life is worth more than mine.”
“You coward,” Richie said.
“Anyone with a gun is a coward, yourself included,” Dominic said.
“So where’s The Outsider?” Richie asked. “That’s what you called him, right?”
“Yeah, where’s the old man?” Garton pressed. “I have a surprise for that geezer.”
Warwick was hiding among the mannequins and stepped out, taking cover behind Dominic. “You couldn’t leave well enough alone,” Warwick said directly to Garton. “You couldn’t just take the money and finish the job. You had to dig up my past. Now look where it’s brought us.”
“I just want to go home,” Rhonda wailed.
“Sure you do, sweetheart,” Dominic said. “Sure you do. And if luck is on your side, you will. What do you say, guys? Why don’t you walk away now while you have the chance and I’ll let the girl go? Then Rhonda can live to see graduation.”
Rhonda’s lips–puffy and smeared with purple lipstick–were quivering. She couldn’t stop her left leg from twitching. The floor beneath her felt like it was vibrating.
Out of desperation, Rhonda did the only thing her frightened mind could think of. She sunk her teeth deep into Dominic’s forearm, and didn’t stop until she drew blood. The sharp pain forced Dominic to release her and she ran into Richie’s arms.
“Run for it,” Richie advised her. “And go straight home. Do not call the police. We’ve got this taken care of.”
“I still have a gun,” Dominic pointed out, setting the pain aside. “This is far from over.”
“And we have three guns,” Anthony noted. “Seems like we’ve got you outnumbered.”
“Maybe we should surrender,” Warwick whispered to Dominic. “We could still make it out of here alive.”
“Not a chance in hell,” Dominic said back.
It was then that Warwick noticed the jar tucked under Garton’s arm.
“You…you brought it with you! You brought that abomination back into my presence! Why couldn’t you have just destroyed the fucking thing?! That was our deal!” His voice rose to a feverous pitch, and he coughed another handful of blood. But he couldn’t have cared less. The blood didn’t faze him. He was transfixed, his eyes glued to the jar.
“Yeah, well I changed the deal,” Garton informed him. “Here’s the new one. You’re going to spill your guts about everything. And depending on how generous I’m feeling after that, I might just let you walk out of here.”
“You can start by clearing something up for me and telling me who was holding the camera on that tape,” Richie said.
“Don’t say a word,” Dominic warned him.
“It’s not like you have any other options,” Richie said. “Spill it.”
“Cherry red convertible,” Warwick whispered.
“You shut your treacherous mouth!” Dominic screamed and backhanded Warwick. “I’ve had enough of you and I’ve had enough of your lectures and quotes. And I’ve had enough talk about the dragonfly to last me a fucking lifetime. It’s nothing more than a harmless insect, you delusional old bastard. And I’m going to prove it to you.”
Dominic fired his pistol and the bullet shattered the jar, glass raining down to the floor. The bullet missed Garton, but his arm was badly cut from the glass. Though he didn’t show any signs of pain. He didn’t even flinch.
The dragonfly hovered in the air briefly before descending upon the dispersed shards of glass. Warwick gasped.
“I warned you, Dominic,” he sobbed. “Satan appears in many unassuming forms.”
The dragonfly swelled and pulsated; a bizarre, inexplicable sight. Silence filled the warehouse. The men lowered their guns and gazed at the dragonfly. Warwick was trembling with fear.
They stood aghast as the dragonfly’s transformation commenced. Its iridescent colors faded. Its transparent wings turned black with decay. It increased in mass at an accelerated rate. Richie wasn’t sure at first, but it looked as if it was sprouting new appendages.
It was mutating.
“What the fuck is happening?!” Dominic shouted.
“You’re about to find out,” Warwick said. “When you bite the devil, the devil bites back.”
The dragonfly, if you could still call it that, now stood before them. A bipedal creature with a dry, rigid exterior. It skin was black and rough as shoe leather. Its long, narrow flapped effortlessly at its sides.
Glowing red eyes stared back at them. Filled with the color of blood. And when it blinked, it did not blink horizontally, up and down. It blinked from the sides, back and forth.
Its swollen lips parted and a forked tongue slithered in and out between four overlapping rows of jagged, razor-like teeth.
“HOLY FUCKING SHIT!” Anthony exclaimed.
“I knew you’d break eventually,” Richie muttered.
They watched in absolute horror as Warwick took his final breaths and the dragonfly claimed his soul. It consumed Warwick from head to toe, leaving nothing behind. But it didn’t stop there. The demon wasn’t satisfied. It had another soul to claim.
Anthony averted his eyes as Richie and Garton observed it tearing Dominic limb from limb from bloody limb. The screams were so horrific they could never be unheard. It didn’t even sound human. It sounded like an animal in its last agonizing moments.
And in the blink of an eye, the dragonfly transformed again, decreasing in mass and reverting back to its prior state. It appeared as nothing more than a harmless, docile insect. But they knew the truth. Warwick wasn’t just blowing smoke. Hell was all around them. Demons walked among the living, and they did appear in the most unassuming forms.
“Nobody would ever believe us in a million years,” Garton said.
“You’re right,” Richie said. “The only logical thing to do is go our separate ways. It’s over. All the men on that tape are dead. Well, all but one. But it’s time to put this all behind us.”
“I don’t know about you,” Anthony said, “But I don’t think I can just forget what I’ve seen.”
“I think it would be impossible to forget this,” Richie said. “But we can never speak of it to anyone else. I’ll tell you one thing, I’ll never look at a dragonfly the same way again.”
“Speaking of which, what should we do with it?” Garton asked.
“The dragonfly?” Richie smiled. It was the first time Anthony had seen him smile in years. But it wasn’t joy lighting up Richie’s face. His smile was really saying, I know something you don’t know.
“Leave it to me.”
To Be Continued